NASA Selects Innovative, Early-Stage Tech Concepts for Continued Study

Notional view of LCRT on the far-side of the Moon. (Credits: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA encourages researchers to develop and study unexpected approaches for traveling through, understanding, and exploring space. To further these goals, the agency has selected seven studies for additional funding – totaling $5 million – from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The researchers previously received at least one NIAC award related to their proposals.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Completes Final Tour of Asteroid Bennu

This image shows a top-down view of asteroid Bennu, with a portion of the asteroid’s equatorial ridge and northern hemisphere illuminated. It was taken by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on March 4, 2021, from a distance of about 186 miles (300 km). The spacecraft’s cameras are pointed directly at Bennu’s north pole. Two large equatorial craters are visible on the asteroid’s edge (center and center left). The image was obtained during the mission’s Post-TAG Operations phase, as the spacecraft slowly approached Bennu in preparation for a final observational flyby on April 7. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx completed its last flyover of Bennu around 6 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. MDT) April 7 and is now slowly drifting away from the asteroid; however, the mission team will have to wait a few more days to find out how the spacecraft changed the surface of Bennu when it grabbed a sample of the asteroid.

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COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

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NASA OSIRIS-REx’s Final Asteroid Observation Run

This artist’s concept shows the planned flight path of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during its final flyby of asteroid Bennu, which is scheduled for April 7. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is on the brink of discovering the extent of the mess it made on asteroid Bennu’s surface during last fall’s sample collection event. On Apr. 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will get one last close encounter with Bennu as it performs a final flyover to capture images of the asteroid’s surface. While performing the flyover, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.3 miles (3.7 km) – the closest it’s been since the Touch-and-Go Sample Collection event on Oct. 20, 2020.

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NASA Begins Final Assembly of Spacecraft Destined for Asteroid Psyche

In late March of 2021, a main component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft was delivered to JPL, where assembly, test, and launch operations are underway. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, the agency’s Psyche spacecraft will explore a metal-rich asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A major component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft has been delivered to the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the phase known as assembly, test, and launch operations is now underway. Over the next year, the spacecraft will finish assembly and undergo rigorous checkout and testing before it’s shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an August 2022 launch to the main asteroid belt.

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NASA Analysis: Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years

These images of asteroid Apophis were recorded by radio antennas at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone complex in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The asteroid was 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) away, and each pixel has a resolution of 127 feet (38.75 meters). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO)

The near-Earth object was thought to pose a slight risk of impacting Earth in 2068, but now radar observations have ruled that out.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After its discovery in 2004, asteroid 99942 Apophis had been identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. But that impact assessment changed as astronomers tracked Apophis and its orbit became better determined.

Now, the results from a new radar observation campaign combined with precise orbit analysis have helped astronomers conclude that there is no risk of Apophis impacting our planet for at least a century.

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Newly Named Asteroids Reflect Contributions of Pioneering Astronauts

In this image from 2003, retired astronaut Joan Higginbotham took a break from training for the STS-116 mission and is shown in front of a NASA T-38 trainer. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Twenty-seven asteroids have been named in honor of African American, Hispanic, and Native American astronauts, and one cosmonaut, who have helped expand our horizons beyond Earth and to inspire the next generation of space explorers.

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NASA Funds Research on using Fungi to Make Soil for Space Habitats

Graphic depiction of the method for Making Soil for Space Habitats by Seeding Asteroids with Fungi. (Credits: Jane Shevtsov)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Funding: up to $125,000
Study Period: 9 months

Making Soil for Space Habitats by Seeding Asteroids with Fungi
Jane Shevtsov
Trans Astronautica Corporation
Lake View Terrace, Calif.

Synopsis

Background and Objectives: Any large, long-term human space habitat will need to grow most of its own food and recycle nutrients. For easily resupplied missions, growing crops hydroponically makes sense, but soil-based systems possess important advantages in the context of a large settlement that cannot be affordably resupplied from Earth.

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Comet Makes a Pit Stop Near Jupiter’s Asteroids

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of the young comet P/2019 LD2 as it orbits near Jupiter’s captured ancient asteroids, which are called Trojans. The Hubble view reveals a 400,000-mile-long tail of dust and gas flowing from the wayward comet’s bright solid nucleus. (Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Olmsted/STScI)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — For the first time, a wayward comet-like object has been spotted near the family of ancient asteroids.

After traveling several billion miles toward the Sun, a wayward young comet-like object orbiting among the giant planets has found a temporary parking place along the way. The object has settled near a family of captured ancient asteroids, called Trojans, that are orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter. This is the first time a comet-like object has been spotted near the Trojan population.

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Futuristic Space Technology Concepts Selected by NASA for Initial Study

This illustration shows a conceptual lunar railway system called FLOAT (Flexible Levitation on a Track) that has been selected for an early-stage feasibility study within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Four advanced space concepts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been selected to receive grants for further research and development.

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How Were the Trojan Asteroids Discovered and Named?

This is a view of the inner solar system in a Jupiter-rotating reference frame. The camera begins at viewpoint oblique to the ecliptic plane, then moves up to a top-down view. Clusters of Trojan asteroids appear behind and ahead of Jupiter in its orbit. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

By David Dezell Turner
Southwest Research Institute

BOULDER, Colo. — On Feb. 22, 1906, German astrophotographer Max Wolf helped reshape our understanding of the solar system. Again.

Born in 1863, Wolf had a habit of dramatically altering the astronomy landscape. Something of a prodigy, he discovered his first comet at only 21 years old. Then in 1890, he boldly declared that he planned to use wide-field photography in his quest to discover new asteroids, which would make him the first to do so. Two years later, Wolf had found 18 new asteroids. He later became the first person to use the “stereo comparator,” a View-Master-like device that showed two photographs of the sky at once so that moving asteroids appeared to pop out from the starry background.

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NASA’s First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids Installs its Final Scientific Instrument

Two engineers work on L’Ralph, the most complicated instrument that will fly on the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. It is actually two instruments in one. The Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), will take visible light color images. The Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), will collect infrared spectra. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Barbara Lambert/Desiree Stover)

LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR) — With less than a year to launch, NASA’s Lucy mission’s third and final scientific instrument has been integrated onto the spacecraft.

The spacecraft, which will be the first to explore the Trojan asteroids — a population of small bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter — is in the final stages of the assembly process. Just five months ago, at the beginning of the Assembly, Testing and Launch operations (ATLO) process, the components of the Lucy spacecraft were being built all over the country. Today, a nearly assembled spacecraft sits in the high bay in Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

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NASA’s Psyche Mission Moves Forward, Passing Key Milestone

A technician prepares to integrate part of the electric propulsion system onto the main body of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft at Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California. (Credits: Maxar Technologies)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Now just a year and a half from launch, the mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid will soon begin assembling and testing the spacecraft.

NASA’s Psyche mission has passed a critical milestone that moves it a step closer to launch. After an intense review of the mission’s progress in building its science instruments and engineering systems, Psyche won clearance to progress into what NASA calls Phase D of its life cycle – the final phase of operations prior to its scheduled launch in August 2022.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Plans for May Asteroid Departure

Captured by the spacecraft’s SamCam camera on Oct. 22, 2020, this series of three images shows that the sampler head on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is full of rocks and dust collected from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. They show also that some of these particles are slowly escaping the sampler head. Analysis by the OSIRIS-REx team suggests that bits of material are passing through small gaps where the head’s mylar flap is slightly wedged open. The mylar flap (the black bulge on the left inside the ring) is designed to keep the collected material locked inside, and these unsealed areas appear to be caused by larger rocks that didn’t fully pass through the flap. Based on available imagery, the team suspects there is plentiful sample inside the head, and is on a path to stow the sample as quickly as possible. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On May 10, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will say farewell to asteroid Bennu and begin its journey back to Earth. During its Oct. 20, 2020, sample collection event, the spacecraft collected a substantial amount of material from Bennu’s surface, likely exceeding the mission’s requirement of 2 ounces (60 grams). The spacecraft is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

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Remote Sensing Data Sheds Light on When and How Asteroid Ryugu Lost its Water

Asteroid 1998 KY26 (insert) is approximately 1/30th the size of asteroid Ryugu. (Ryugu image: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST. 1998 KY26 image (insert): Auburn University, JAXA)

Rocks on Ryugu, a “rubble pile” near-Earth asteroid recently visited by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, appear to have lost much of their water before they came together to form the asteroid, new research suggests.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Brown University PR) — Last month, Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission brought home a cache of rocks collected from a near-Earth asteroid called Ryugu. While analysis of those returned samples is just getting underway, researchers are using data from the spacecraft’s other instruments to reveal new details about the asteroid’s past.

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